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  1. #8144
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Former national shuttler acquitted of defraud in London court

    By Catherine Drew
    POSTED: 05 Mar 2014 21:33

    LONDON: Former Singapore national badminton player Fatimah Kumin Lim walked free from a London court this week after a jury found her not guilty of defrauding the former wife of the Sultan of Brunei of three diamond rings.

    The jury believed 35-year-old Lim, who was then employed as a personal bodyguard, had been tasked by her employer Mariam Aziz to sell US$12 million worth of gems to pay off considerable gambling debts that Ms Aziz wanted to keep secret from the Brunei royal family.

    Lim, a 2002 Commonwealth Games silver medallist, went to Brunei in late 2003 after being hired as a badminton coach.

    She later became Ms Aziz's assistant and bodyguard.

    She was arrested last year over the case.

    This is not the first legal case to arise from this matter.

    In 2012, Ms Aziz brought a successful civil suit against Lim for the loss of her jewellery.

    Lim was ordered to pay just over US$6 million in compensation and was told by the judge she was an unreliable witness.

    In the current case, Lim was alleged to have stole three diamond rings, had the gems replaced with fakes and sold the real diamonds to pay off her own gambling debts owed to several London casinos.

    After five weeks of testimony in which jurors heard a parade of witnesses testify against Lim, the jury chose to believe her version of events.

    During the trial, the court heard claims of Ms Aziz's opulent lifestyle, that she travelled with an entourage of 10 people, including a chef and a hairdresser, and visited casinos around the world, losing up to US$1 million on a daily basis.

    Lim wept with relief when the jury verdict was announced.

    Sources close to Lim said she is keen to return to Singapore as soon as possible.


    - CNA/de

  2. #8145
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Singapore Budget 2014: Steady defence spending will continue

    Published on Mar 06, 2014
    12:57 PM


    An RSAF F-15SG fighter aircraft taking off for a mission during XFS 2013. -- PHOTO: MINDEF


    By Jermyn Chow

    Singapore will continue its approach of keeping defence spending steady, avoiding sharp spikes or drops which would undermine defence capabilities over the medium term.

    "Our planning horizons are intentionally long term and we spend prudently and steadily," Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said in Parliament on Thursday.

    The reason for this, he added, is due to Singapore's robust approach in building its capabilities so as to achieve strategic deterrence, and to avoid being caught off-guard by unknown risks.

    He unveiled how the Singapore Armed Forces in 2030 will look like, when the Republic buys new Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft, upgrades the ageing Bionix armoured vehicles and launches driverless vehicles to help protect Singapore's sovereignty.


  3. #8146
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Proposed SAF Volunteer Corps could be open to specialists

    Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing. TODAY file photo


    Details of the proposed corps revealed in Parliament during Committee of Supply debate



    By Xue Jianyue

    Published: March 6, 12:50 PM


    SINGAPORE — Volunteers with expertise in areas such as healthcare, psychology and communications could be given opportunities to serve in their specialist areas in the proposed Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Volunteer Corps, said Second Defence Minister Chan Chun Sing today (March 6).

    Revealing to Parliament more details of the proposed Corps, Mr Chan added that volunteers who wish to serve in other military functions, such as protecting and controlling access to installations in Singapore, could be trained for these roles too.

    The Defence Ministry will also look into developing basic modules to teach relevant basic military skills and values to volunteers.

    “Specific training will then be conducted according to needs. In order for meaningful contributions to be made, volunteers could commit to performing various operational duties for a certain period of time,” said Mr Chan.

    The Second Defence Minister was making the speech at the Committee of Supply debate this afternoon. His comments followed months of public engagement by the Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS).

    At several focus group discussions, women, new citizens and Permanent Residents have expressed their desire to contribute more to national defence as volunteers.

  4. #8147
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Most MPs back high level of defence spending

    Published: March 6, 4:03 AM


    SINGAPORE — The start of the Committee of Supply (COS) debate on the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) budget yesterday saw Members of Parliament (MPs) rise to speak in support of the ministry’s budget — traditionally the biggest-ticket item of government spending each year.

    However, an opposition parliamentarian — Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam — questioned the Government’s allocation for defence expenditure, noting that Singapore has the highest defence spending in South-east Asia — 42 per cent and 80 per cent more than the next highest spenders. Could this spark an arms race, “as countries in our region may feel under pressure to keep up with us”, which could lead to even greater spending in the future that may be unsustainable, he asked.

    Most of the other MPs who spoke yesterday, however, supported the Government’s commitment to maintain its level of defence spending.

    Potong Pasir MP Sitoh Yih Pin, who is a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Defence and Foreign Affairs, said securing a quick and decisive victory in wars is crucial for a city state such as the Republic. That, he added, comes with leaving no doubt in any potential aggressor’s mind that the Singapore Armed Forces is trained and equipped to do just that.

    “The best way to achieve peace and security for Singapore is for everyone to know that they cannot possibly win a war with Singapore,” said Mr Sitoh.

    “Starting a war will exact a terrible and unacceptable price on the aggressor. This message has to be repeated ... to all Singaporeans and others beyond our shores.”

    Pointing to how combined defence spending in Asia exceeded that of the West for the first time last year, including higher spending by regional countries — Indonesia and Malaysia’s defence budget grew 125 per cent and 35 per cent respectively — Nee Soon MP Lim Wee Kiak asked what impact these would have on regional security. MINDEF’s COS debate continues today.

  5. #8148
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Police warn foreign nationals against importing their countries’ issues into S’pore

    By Woo Sian Boon

    Published: March 7, 4:13 AM


    SINGAPORE — The police have warned foreign nationals against importing issues from their own countries into Singapore, which could disturb public order as there may be groups with opposing views.

    In a statement that was also posted on their Facebook page yesterday, the police said they have received information there may be foreign nationals campaigning for Indonesian elections in Singapore. The Indonesian parliamentary and presidential elections will be held in April and July respectively.

    While foreigners are allowed to work or live here, they have to abide by Singapore laws, the police said.

    “They should not import issues from their own countries into Singapore, which can disturb public order, as there can be groups with opposing views,” the police added.

    Those who break the law could have their visas or work passes terminated. No police reports have been made so far, TODAY has learnt.

    Last year, the police issued conditional warnings against 49 foreigners after they were involved in an illegal protest at Merlion Park on May 8 following the Malaysian general election earlier that month. Six others were given verbal advisories.

  6. #8149
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Budget backgrounder: National Service

    Published on Mar 06, 2014
    8:02 PM




    Servicemen from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) participating in a military exercise on Pulau Sudong on Aug 2, 2011. National Service stints may be shortened by a few weeks from the current two years, under a plan by the SAF to hire more career soldiers to make NS training more effective. -- ST FILE PHOTO: NURIA LING



    By Ong Hwee Hwee

    National Service stints may be shortened by a few weeks from the current two years, under a plan by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to hire more career soldiers to make NS training more effective.

    Young men due to be enlisted may also face a shorter wait of four to five months, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen during the debate on his ministry's Budget on Thursday. We look at five facts about NS:

    1. Once upon a time, NS was as long as three years
    When NS started in 1967, officers served 36 months and the rest had to complete 30 months of training.

  7. #8150
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Muslim community plays critical role in tackling extremism: DPM Teo

    Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean. TODAY file photo



    By Amir Hussain

    Published: March 7, 4:11 AM


    SINGAPORE — The phenomenon of self-radicalisation remains a concern for Singapore, given the widespread availability of content of a radical nature on the Internet, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean yesterday.

    Updating the House on the terrorist threat and efforts to deal with self-radicalisation during his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate, Mr Teo noted that five individuals detained under the Internal Security Act, as well as six others who were issued Restriction Orders since 2007, were all radicalised through the Internet and had intended to wage armed jihad in overseas conflict zones.

    Mr Teo was responding to a question from Sembawang Member of Parliament Vikram Nair, who noted TODAY’s report last year on Singaporean Asyrani Hussaini, who had attempted to join the insurgency in Thailand after being influenced by what he had read online.

    In his reply, Mr Teo stressed that what happens in other nations will have an impact on Singapore, pointing out that several core Singapore Jemaah Islamiyah members who were rounded up in 2001 and 2002 for bomb plots here had been trained in Afghanistan.

    With the reduction and possible complete pullout of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan at the end of the year, whether the country will be left in a fragile state, or descend into turmoil and provide a safe haven for terrorists, is uncertain, he added.

    Political instability in the Middle East and Africa has also led to the emergence of new terrorist groups — some of which have aligned themselves with Al Qaeda — while the conflict in Syria has attracted foreign fighters, including some from the region, said Mr Teo.

    On efforts to deal with violent extremism, the minister said an integrated approach involving security agencies, the community and international cooperation is required. He pointed out that, besides the authorities working hard to detect and apprehend terrorists before they strike, the Muslim community also plays a critical role in countering terrorism.

    Mr Teo noted that, in 2003, Muslim religious leaders volunteered to form the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG), which helps counsel and rehabilitate those involved in terrorism-related activities. It has rehabilitated more than two-thirds of the 66 individuals who have been detained since 2002 for involvement in such activities.

    Last year, the RRG organised an international conference on terrorist rehabilitation and community resilience to share best practices and lessons learnt in countering extremist ideas with experts and practitioners from other countries.

    Said Mr Teo: “Such efforts will help to expose and counter the distorted interpretations of religious texts and doctrinal concepts that are propagated by extremists.”

    Asked by Nominated MP Eugene Tan if more could be done to dispel the perception that terrorism is a matter that concerns solely the Malay/Muslim community, Mr Teo said the Government looks at the issue of violent extremism as a phenomenon and not as a problem confined to the Malay or Muslim community.

  8. #8151
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Queenstown: Fit for royalty

    Published on Mar 04, 2014




    http://www.straitstimes.com/sites/st...t03030011e.jpg
    Queenstown: Mr Raymond Lum at the Alexandra Park Connector in Queenstown. -- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA



    http://www.straitstimes.com/sites/st...t03030009e.jpg
    Queenstown: School children play at a playground along the Alexandra Park Connector in Queenstown. -- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA



    http://www.straitstimes.com/sites/st...t03030008e.jpg
    Queenstown: The new Housing Board flats, Skyville @ Dawson, being constructed. -- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA



    http://www.straitstimes.com/sites/st...t03030007e.jpg
    Queenstown: Mr Raymond Lum at the exercise corner along the Alexandra Park Connector. He often uses the exercise facilities that are situated just alongside his housing estate in Strathmore Road. -- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA



    http://www.straitstimes.com/sites/st...town20303e.jpg
    Queenstown: The new Housing Board flats, Skyville @ Dawson, being constructed. -- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA



    http://www.straitstimes.com/sites/st...t03030005e.jpg
    Queenstown: Children's clothing on sale at Dawson Place. -- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA



    http://www.straitstimes.com/sites/st...t03030004e.jpg
    Queenstown: The breakfast crowd at Mei Ling Food Market. -- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA



    http://www.straitstimes.com/sites/st...nsiqt3314e.jpg
    These blocks of flats are among the first to be built in Queenstown area, the first satelite estate in Singapore. -- BH FILE PHOTO: TUKIMAN WARJI



    http://www.straitstimes.com/sites/st...siqt23314e.jpg
    High rise HDB flats in the Commonwealth area - Queenstown estates. -- ST FILE PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN



    http://www.straitstimes.com/sites/st...siqt33314e.jpg
    The iconic former Queenstown cinema has been surrounded by hoardings, with heritage buffs fearing it will make way for a new residential or commercial development. Built in 1977, the building also used to house a bowling centre and was a favourite with residents before it closed in 1999. -- ST FILE PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA




    http://www.straitstimes.com/sites/st...siqt53314e.jpg
    Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, playing ball with autistic children from the Rainbow Centre in Queenstown, on Sept 12, 2012. -- ST FILE PHOTO: DESMOND LIM



    Prince William and his wife, Catherine Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, being greeted by a lion dance performance at Strathmore Green in Queenstown, one of the places in Singapore that the royal couple visited as part of a three-day tour here marking the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. -- ST FILE PHOTO: JOYCE FANG


    There was an old plot of land near Queenstown Secondary School where I went often with my primary school friends. It was a grassland with a few abandoned houses from the 1970s. We used to cycle there and explore the area.

    Raymond Lum, 26, undergraduate
    A resident since 1995
    Lives in Strathmore Avenue


    When undergraduate Raymond Lum and his family moved from the West Coast area to Strathmore Avenue in Queenstown, his block was the tallest.

    “Now it’s the shortest," he said.

    The Nanyang Technological University materials science major has been living in the Queenstown estate since 1995. He was then a primary one pupil at Queenstown Primary School.

    Nineteen years have passed since the family of five - he has an older brother and sisiter - moved in. Mr Lum’s siblings have since married and moved out of the four-room flat which he now shares with his father, a technician, and his retiree mother.

    My fave memory: Playing basketball at the Queenstown Community Centre with other kids after school during my primary and secondary school days.

    My fave food joint: The Dawson Mall food court, which opened seven years ago. That’s the nearest food court to my flat after the Queenstown Wet Market closed in 2000. I eat the wanton mee there every Sunday morning. The dish is not particularly exceptional – I just happen to like wanton noodles.

    My fave hideaway: There was an old plot of land near Queenstown Secondary School where I went often with my primary school friends. It was a grassland with a few abandoned houses from the 1970s. We used to cycle there and explore the area. The old houses were demolished seven years ago and Housing Board flats now occupy the land. Nowadays, I jog or ride my kick scooter along the Alexandra Park Connector with friends to have a respite. It leads towards River Valley and ends at Clarke Quay.

    My fave landmark: Queenstown Cinema and Bowling Centre at Margaret Drive. That was where most Queenstown residents hung out as the Queenstown community centre was nearby. The two cinemas and bowling alley closed in 1999. A billiard and LAN gaming outlet replaced it for a few years before closing. The building was demolished last year, while the community centre relocated to Commonwealth Avenue several years ago. The old building was torn down four years ago. I heard that the entire area will be converted into a shopping centre connected to the Queenstown MRT station.

    My favourite neighbourhood activity:
    Jogging along the Alexandra Park Connector with my neighbour who lives in the block facing mine.

    My favourite time of the day: Definitely evening. My bedroom faces the rising sun, which makes it very hot during the day.

    My favourite person in the estate (excluding family): I have a friend, Chee Loong, who lives in a block about 100m away. We met when we were eight years old, as pupils in Queenstown Primary School. He is currently a sales executive at a wallpaper company.

    My neighbourhood... Is very different from how it was 20 years ago. Many of my friends moved away when their flats were sold en bloc. The library, bowling alley and even polyclinic are now gone.

    Did you know... Queenstown Remand Prison, which was demolished in 2010, is rumoured to be haunted. Some people say they have heard screams coming from the prison at night, but I have never heard them myself.

    Submit memories of your favourite neighbourhoods in Singapore to the Singapore Memory Portal: www.singaporememory.sg

    About Queenstown:

    Queenstown goes down in history books as the first satellite estate in Singapore.
    It held records for the tallest residential buildings on the island when the estate was established about 60 years ago.

    These records were eventually broken as Singapore became more developed and taller buildings became the norm.

    In 1956, Forfar House, or Block 39, was the tallest block in Singapore at 14 storeys. The other blocks surrounding Block 39 were only four storeys high. The estate, Forfar Heights, was known for its blue facade.

    Mr Steven Teo, 53, an engineer who lives at Strathmore Avenue, said: “We called it lam po lay, which means ‘blue glass’ in Hokkien.”

    Before the blue-glassed building sprouted up, pre-war Queenstown was a swamp with hundreds of people living in attap-roofed huts. It was known as boh beh kang which is Hokkien for “no tail river”.

    In 1952, construction for Queenstown’s Princess Margaret Estate began. The area’s first estate of one-, two- and three-room units and 68 terrace houses was named after Queen Elizabeth II’s younger sister. As for Queenstown, it was named such to commemorate the coronation of the Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

    In an effort to develop Queenstown as a self-sufficient town and to relieve the overcrowding in the city and Chinatown, three cinemas, a market, a bowling alley, a nightclub and an emporium were eventually built.

    During its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, the Queenstown Cinema and Bowling Alley housed a karaoke lounge in its basement and a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet – Queenstown’s first fast-food restaurant. Those were considered big thrills at the time.

    “I remember saving the little allowance that I had just so I could watch a movie at the Queenstown Cinema,” said Mr Abdul Wahb, 55, a taxi driver.

    By the time the 1990s swung by, most of Queenstown’s early residents had become senior citizens.

    The area, under the Tanjong Pagar Group Representation Constituency, has kept steady pace with progress, evolving into a quaintly modern estate over the years.

    Gone are the chap lau cu (Hokkien for “10-storey houses”). Instead, 40-storey buildings stand proudly in their stead.

    “Many of my friends who lived in the lam po lay blocks behind my flat moved away when their flats were sold en-bloc,” lamented Mr Lum.

    Queenstown was one of the places that Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, visited when they were in Singapore in 2012.

    Ms Joanna Sim, 18, who lives in one of the 40-storey flats, likes the accessibility of the area.

    “Getting to the town area is quite convenient from here,” said the Ngee Ann Polytechnic student.
    Last edited by Loh; 03-07-2014 at 06:18 AM.

  9. #8152
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Queenstown: 'Long live the Queen' archway in Queenstown raises some eyebrows

    This article was first published in The Straits Times on Sept 29, 2013.



    Published on Feb 27, 2014


    The archway in Tanglin Halt which was put up for Queenstown’s 60th anniversary celebrations. Some have said the arch smacks of a 'colonial hangover' but organisers say it is a re-creation of a larger one erected in 1953 in North Bridge Road to celebrate the Queen’s coronation, and symbolises the estate’s roots. -- ST PHOTO: NURIA LING


    By Melody Zaccheus


    An archway in Queenstown proclaiming "Long live the Queen" has left some scratching their heads, even as residents gathered last night for a concert to mark the estate's 60th anniversary.

    The arch was put up as part of the celebrations at the estate, which was named after Queen Elizabeth II. Nine of 15 Singaporeans The Sunday Times spoke to described the arch as odd, calling it a "colonial hangover".

    "It's not appropriate as we are an independent country and no longer under British rule," said polytechnic course manager Tia Boon Sim, 57, who lived in Queenstown for the first 16 years of her life.

    Since Sept 13, the estate has been marking its anniversary with a two-week-long arts and heritage festival, which includes 37 performances and exhibitions. Over 22,700 residents attended these events. An anniversary concert was held at Tanglin Halt Community Plaza last night.

    "It's actually just good fun," said Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing on the arch, on the sidelines of the concert. "It's just part of our heritage... and to recognise how Queenstown started 60 years ago, how far we have come and how far more we want to go."

    In his speech to an audience of about 2,000, he also conveyed the well-wishes of Queen Elizabeth II in a letter from her private secretary Christopher Geidt. The letter said the Queen was interested to learn of the efforts being made to maintain the estate's heritage.

    The festival, organised by civic group My Community and supported by the Queenstown Citizens Consultative Committee, was to showcase the area's history.

    My Community founder Kwek Li Yong, 24, said the arch - featuring a photo of the Queen and decorated with the Union Jack - is a re-creation of a larger one that was erected in 1953 in North Bridge Road to celebrate the Queen's coronation.

    "History teaches us to look back at events. So, we are tracing the estate's roots back to when the British started it, as Singapore's first satellite town," he said.

    Named by the British on Sept 27, 1953, Queenstown began as a project by the Singapore Improvement Trust to tackle overcrowding in Chinatown. The trust was later replaced by the Housing Board in 1959. It was in Queenstown that HDB built its first blocks.

    Last year, in September, the Queen's grandson, Prince William, and his wife Catherine paid a visit to the estate during an Asia-Pacific tour to mark her Diamond Jubilee.

    Residents said the arch, which has been up at the entrance of Tanglin Halt's community plaza near Block 46-2 since Sept 15 and will be taken down today - could have come with a sign explaining why it was there. "Otherwise, the proclamation seems out of place in the Singaporean heartland," said secretary Aileen See, 53. But others. some of whom posed for photos under the lit-up arch, said it "need not be taken too seriously".

    Some of the older residents, such as Mr L.H. Khoo, 74, said it was a fitting tribute because the British had a role in building Singapore's first modern town.

  10. #8153
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Three historic buildings in Queenstown to be conserved

    This article was first published in The Straits Times on Oct 4, 2013.




    http://www.straitstimes.com/sites/st...4_3866015e.jpg
    Queenstown library (above), the former wet market at Block 38 Commonwealth Avenue and Alexandra Hospital will be gazetted for conservation by the URA in its upcoming Master Plan. -- ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN



    http://www.straitstimes.com/sites/st...W_3866018e.jpg
    Queenstown library, the former wet market at Block 38 Commonwealth Avenue (above) and Alexandra Hospital will be gazetted for conservation by the URA in its upcoming Master Plan. -- ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN



    http://www.straitstimes.com/sites/st...K_3866023e.jpg
    Queenstown library, the former wet market at Block 38 Commonwealth Avenue and Alexandra Hospital (above) will be gazetted for conservation by the URA in its upcoming Master Plan. -- ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN



    By Melody Zaccheus

    QUEENSTOWN library, a former wet market at Commonwealth Avenue and Alexandra Hospital will be gazetted for conservation by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in its upcoming Master Plan.

    The news was cheered by civic group My Community, which had lobbied for the conservation of these buildings in a paper submitted to the URA in July. The authority said it had also been looking at these sites.

    Their status was announced by Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin at the URA's Architectural Heritage Awards presentation ceremony yesterday evening.

    "All three buildings are important representations of what conservation can do to reinforce a community's identity and preserve its 'flavour' for past, present and future residents," said Mr Tan.

  11. #8154
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Clubhouse for domestic helpers to open later this year

    Published on Mar 09, 2014
    4:02 PM



    A group of foreign domestic workers at the first Foreign Domestic Worker Education Fest held at the Grassroots Club in Yio Chu Kang. Domestic helpers here will soon get to enjoy new dedicated facilities and a space to host gatherings when a clubhouse opens later this year. -- ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN



    By Joanna Seow

    Domestic helpers here will soon get to enjoy new dedicated facilities and a space to host gatherings when a clubhouse opens later this year.

    The Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (Fast) has signed the lease for a 3,000 sq ft area at Raeburn Park, near the defunct Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, where the clubhouse will be located, said its executive director, Mr William Chew, on Sunday.

    For a start, a computer laboratory, library and lounge there will be launched in April, he added.

    When fully open later in the year, the clubhouse will be a one-stop centre with counselling services, fitness activities and remittance services.

  12. #8155
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    Default More needs to be done to teach young about Konfrontasi, say volunteers

    National Cadet Corps Honour Guard Siti Sabrina and BG (NS) Winston Koh...
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    Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Senior Minister of...
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    A wreath on the sidewalk at McDonald House seen at the 49th anniversary...
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    Members of the Singapore Armed Forces Veterans League at a 49th...
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    Singapore Armed Forces Veterans' League's memorial service for vicitims...
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    Group hands petition to MCCY Acting Minister at ceremony to remember victims of the period



    By Woo Sian Boon
    Published: March 11, 4:13 AM


    SINGAPORE — A group that organised a memorial service for those who suffered and died during the Konfrontasi period has called on the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) for more ways to commemorate this dark period in Singapore’s history.

    Singapore Armed Forces Veterans’ League (SAFVL) President Winston Toh handed a petition to MCCY Acting Minister Lawrence Wong yesterday during the ceremony, which was held opposite MacDonald House.

    The ceremony is believed to be the first to commemorate the attack on March 10, 1965, which killed three people and injured 33 and which occurred during the Konfrontasi period from 1963 to 1966, when Indonesia opposed the newly formed Malaysia, which Singapore was then part of.

    Said Brigadier-General (NS) Toh: “This will help Singaporeans remember the victims of Konfrontasi and educate younger generations about our past. It will also commemorate the efforts and sacrifices (for) the nation made by our fallen comrades.”

    More than 250 people, including veterans from the Singapore Infantry Regiment’s 1st and 2nd Battalion and family members of those who died during the MacDonald House bombing, attended the ceremony.

    They laid wreaths and flowers at a temporary memorial before observing a minute of silence. Nine soldiers from the 2nd Battalion had died during a skirmish with Indonesian saboteurs in Kota Tinggi in 1964. Buglers, bag pipers and a drummer also played the tunes typically played at military funerals and ceremonies commemorating those who have fallen in war.

    Speaking during the service, Mr Wong commended the volunteers and retired SAF regulars for organising the memorial, adding that other than the government, community and civic groups can play a role in keeping the stories of Singapore’s past alive. He said: “The soul of our nation is richer for stories and experiences like these. But the stories cannot be told by the government alone; we need many voices to keep alive the stories of Singapore and its heroes in our collective memory.”

    When asked how MCCY would mark the events of Konfrontasi, Mr Wong pointed out that MacDonald House had been gazetted as a national monument in 1993, with two site markers to indicate its significance. He added that the ministry would have to discuss future initiatives with the National Heritage Board before deciding what more could be done.

    In a letter to BG (NS) Toh, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen strongly supported the league’s petition, saying that younger generations of Singaporeans have to be taught about such threats to understand the need for a strong defence.

    The ceremony came a month after Indonesia named a new warship after the two Indonesian marines who bombed MacDonald House, which strained ties between Singapore and Jakarta.

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    Default HDB resale: Parties must agree on price before valuation


    TODAY FILE PHOTO


    Analysts see move as a step towards controlling prices of resale flats in bull runs


    By Sumita d/o Sreedharan

    Published: March 11, 4:13 AM


    SINGAPORE — With effect from yesterday, buyers and sellers of Housing and Development Board (HDB) resale flats will have to agree on a price before getting an official valuation, in contrast to the previous long-standing practice where negotiations were determined by a unit’s valuation report and how much a buyer was willing to pay above valuation.

    Analysts described the move, which was announced by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan yesterday, as a step towards preventing HDB resale prices from spiralling upwards during a property bull run.

    Until recently, when cash-over-valuation (COV) premiums started to fall, there had been calls for the Government to scrap the practice where sellers obtain a valuation report for their flats and use it as a base price to negotiate with buyers on the final amount which the latter is prepared to pay above the valuation. But Mr Khaw had previously pointed out that COV is a decision made between buyer and seller, and scrapping it would only lead to “under-the-counter” deals.

    Nevertheless, “with COVs hitting zero or negative, now is a good time to make the adjustment”, Mr Khaw said yesterday during the Ministry of National Development’s (MND) Committee of Supply debate.

    Median COV premiums have been falling in recent months. Last month, more than a third of resale transactions were priced below valuation, he said. The property market is at a turning point and there have been opposing views on whether cooling measures should be withdrawn, he noted. “While we have re-tilted the balance between buyers and sellers, we are not yet at the optimal state. We will continue to watch the market closely.”

    Under the new process, the HDB will only accept valuation requests from resale flat buyers or their appointed salesperson after the buyers have been granted an Option to Purchase (OTP) by flat sellers. Buyers will then have 21 days, instead of 14 days, to exercise the OTP. The changes will apply to all buyers who were granted the OTP after 5pm yesterday.

    The HDB will publish daily prices of resale transactions as soon as they are registered
    , instead of fortnightly after the resale transactions are approved. This will allow flat buyers and sellers to negotiate based on recent transaction prices and reduce the focus on COV in negotiation, the MND said. “This will improve the long-term stability of the resale market,” it said.

    Mr Khaw said the new process — which is in line with the practice in the private property market — would restore the original intention of valuation, which is to help buyers obtain a housing loan. While sellers could still demand a premium — above the recent transacted prices — analysts noted that buyers would now command greater bargaining power. Mr Nicholas Mak, Executive Director for Research and Consultancy at property firm SLP International, said that previously, in periods when COVs were high, sellers and buyers would adjust their COV expectations upwards, which further reinforced the upward price spiral.

    Propnex Realty CEO Mohamed Ismail added: “Buyers will become more cautious about their offer price as they enter into a purchase without an indication of how much the property is worth.” Pointing out that buyers in the private property market could get an indicative valuation from banks before entering into an OTP, he warned that a buyer could be required to pay more cash than expected if the agreed price is higher than the valuation price.

    Civil servant Jasmine Li, 25, who is looking to buy a resale flat with her fiance, said she would not be comfortable agreeing on a price based on recent transaction data, which could fluctuate due to government cooling measures, for example. It would be helpful if there were some indicative valuation she could refer to, she said.

    But Mr Colin Tan, Head of Research and Consultancy at Suntec Real Estate Consultants, pointed out that all parties in a transaction would take into consideration the same attributes of a resale flat and thus the agreed price and valuation price would not be vastly different. Typically, the difference should not be more than 15 per cent higher or lower, he estimated. “Now that the prices are updated daily ... the valuers have more up-to-date data to work with and this should mitigate any gap in the price and valuation,” he said.

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    Default Govt to invest $65 million revamping Singapore’s museums and cultural institutions

    National Museum of Singapore, Asian Civilisations Museum, Esplanade and Heritage Conservation Centre to be revamped


    By Hon Jing Yi
    Published: March 12, 4:11 AM


    SINGAPORE — The Government will be pumping in S$65 million over the next few years to revamp Singapore’s museums and cultural institutions, said Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong yesterday.

    About S$35 million will go towards renovating the National Museum of Singapore and Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM), while S$21 million will be invested in the Esplanade “to upgrade the visitor experience and set up a theatre mainly for children”, he said. The Heritage Conservation Centre will receive S$9 million.

    Speaking at the Committee of Supply debate for the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), Mr Wong said the National Museum would be unveiling a new wing, Play@NMS, dedicated to children and families.

    The ACM will be transformed with new shops, expanded galleries and possibly a new entrance that will open up to the Singapore River.

    Mr Wong said the number of visitors to museums surged by more than 25 per cent in the six months after entry to museums was made free for all Singaporeans last year.

    The National Arts Council will be setting up a Public Art Trust to commission and promote public artworks. The MCCY will provide the trust with S$10 million in seed funding, while donations from patrons will be matched dollar for dollar via the Cultural Matching Fund.

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    Default New Jurong East mega-mall to open by year-end

    Published on Mar 12, 2014
    2:37 PM



    Artist's impression of Big Box, an eight-storey warehouse and retail development in Jurong East that is expected to be completed by the end of 2013. Big Box is slated to open in Jurong East by the end of the year, according to its developer TT International. -- PHOTO: TT INTERNATIONAL


    By Tee Zhuo

    A new mega-mall is slated to open in Jurong East by the end of the year, according to its developer TT International.

    The Singapore-listed firm, which sells consumer electronics and furniture, said Wednesday it will open its first shopping mall in Singapore, Big Box, by the fourth quarter this year.

    The 1.3 million sq ft mall will feature shops and restaurants, a hypermarket, an exhibition hall and warehouse facilities, said the firm's executive director, Julia Tong.

    TT International will be the sole operator of the mall and will sell products from its own house brands, such as Akira for consumer electronics and Barang Barang for housewares

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    Default Singapore Budget 2014: NSAs can tap into $25 million fund

    to support innovative ideas


    Published on Mar 11, 2014
    10:26 PM





    National Sports Associations (NSAs) with novel plans can now tap on a $25 million "ideas fund". -- ST FILE PHOTO: DESMOND LIM


    By Chua Siang Yee

    National Sports Associations (NSAs) with novel plans can now tap on a $25 million "ideas fund".

    Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong announced in Parliament on Tuesday that the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) will set aside $25 million over the next five years for innovative programmes that NSAs come up with.

    Mr Wong said: "(The fund) will support innovative ideas to bring their sport to the next level, for the community and for Singapore."


    Mr Wong also reiterated his support for athletes who opt to train full-time ahead of next June's SEA Games, which will be hosted in the new Sports Hub.

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    Default Singapore Budget 2014: Gan spells out how Medishield Life premiums to stay affordable

    Published on Mar 12, 2014
    2:35 PM



    The premiums that lower- and middle-income households will have to pay for the new Medishield Life insurance that kicks in next year, will be the same or lower than what they now pay. -- ST FILE PHOTO: JOSEPH NAIR


    By Andrea Ong


    The premiums that lower- and middle-income households will have to pay for the new Medishield Life insurance that kicks in next year, will be the same or lower than what they now pay.

    That is after taking into account the Government's permanent subsidies and Medisave contributions and top-ups.

    Health Minister Gan Kim Yong gave this assurance on Wednesday, as he shed light on the approach the Government intends to take to keep premium increases affordable.

    He said the Government intends to bear most of the initial cost of universal coverage, with permanent subsidies to be introduced for lower to middle income groups and an additional transitional subsidy for all, regardless of income, to tide over the shift to MediShield Life.

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